What I tell you three times is true
Fair warning - the next major part, a Stars Hollow centric episode, is going to be a while (many weeks, even months or years.) while I do some research on the denizens of that fair 'burb.Word count:
2,641 (6 of ?)--- --- ---
Feeling someone watching her, Willow looked up from the book.
"What'd you think?" Dawn asked, pulling back a chair and flopping down into it.
"About what?" Willow said, feigning ignorance.
"The Ladies Gilmore, who else."
"Quirky," Willow murmured.
"I wouldn't think either one of them would be Buffy's type."
"Smoochie partner, heavy on the bad boy vibe, etcetera, etcetera," Dawn said, waving her hands.
"Buffy's straight," Willow told her with utmost certainty. If there was ever a girl living a 'let's hear it for the boys' life it was Buffy.
"Well, duh!" Dawn spouted. "If she wasn't, the whole Faith uber-angst thing wouldn't have happened. It's all over her diary. She's never had any clue how to deal with Miss Sexually Ambiguous Slayer or any of the slay-babies who hit on her."
Willow shook her head, glad she didn't have a nosy sister like Dawn. "Have you finished the manuscript Buffy brought back from Vegas?"
"Getting there. It's either a bonding ritual or a recipe for some really nasty demon party dip. Fresh blood, magic mushrooms, the ground bones of half a dozen mythical creatures. The works."
"Rituals are recipes," Willow muttered. "If it is a bonding ritual that would certainly explain some things."
"Rory Gilmore's reaction to the Wall. I think she could hear them."
"I react to the Wall. It's creepy," Dawn told her. "And listening to all of those dead slayer's thoughts? Very depressing. If I didn't have my own pile of issues maxed out it would give me some more."
"Only slayers can connect with the Wall," Willow told her. "It's a very vital learning tool."
"I'm not a slayer," Dawn said.
"You can feel it because of your connection to the slayer line through Buffy," Willow explained. "But you should be the only exception. Even Robin Woods doesn't have enough of a connection from his mother to feel the Wall."
"Huh. So whatever Buffy did, it might have connected Rory to the slayers?" Dawn asked. "Has she said anything about the ritual?"
"She's in avoidy mode," Willow said. "She keeps finding excuses to stay on the road and not to turn in that report."
"The report she won't ever let me see?" Dawn grumbled. She leaned across the table and looked at Willow's book. "What'cha researching?"
"Asima el Rahman," Willow said.
"She's the last non-European Council slayer," Willow said. "The Eastern branch of the Council didn't have watchers in the way we think of them now. It was usually a family member. After she died there was a power struggle between the English branch of the Council and the other branches."
"And the tweeds won?"
"Yup," Willow said. "They spent the next two centuries consolidating their control and assets, though they missed a few things."
"Why am I not surprised?" Dawn said. "Why are you researching her?"
"She's the spitting image of Lorelai Gilmore."
"What are you thinking?" Willow asked. Dawn suddenly seemed to be thousands of miles away.
"Not sure," Dawn muttered before getting up. "Have to go check some things out."
Shaking her head, Willow watched her stride out of the room like someone with a mission. --- --- ---
Her hands on the wheel, Lorelai glanced out of the corner of her eye at her daughter. Rory had been unusually silent since getting in the car, even compared to her behavior since leaving Vegas. Hugging the package tightly, as if she were afraid it would escape, Rory seemed to be in her own world. Not even a dose of the outlandish, stream of consciousness patter that Lorelai had perfected during Rory's childhood had any noticeable effect.
Lorelai couldn't remember the last time Rory had been like this. It was like talking to someone who was sleep walking. When she responded it was like she was miles away. Lorelai wasn't ready to freak out yet but she was very close.
Lorelai thought she could pinpoint the exact moment of the change to the eternity that Rory had spent entranced by that wall, the one covered with the names and pictures of all of those girls. She was sure she was going to have nightmares for weeks herself after seeing it, unable to stop imagining Rory up there with them.
She didn't think Rory had any idea what that wall really meant, but she was still worried. It shouldn't have affected her this much. If she didn't come out of it before they reached Hartford, she'd have to do something drastic, though she wasn't sure what, other than it would be something Emily Gilmore free.
"Hey, I'm ready for a break. Whadd'ya say we hit the next rest stop kiddo," Lorelai said, turning down the radio. "Ten miles. And maybe real coffee," she added, waving at a sign just ahead.
"Okay," Rory grunted, in a flat voice that echoed in the car.
Nodding, Lorelai started poking the buttons on the radio, looking for something to drown out the silence as she guided the car through the light afternoon traffic.
"Ah, there it is," she said loudly over the voice of some talking head on the radio as they rambled on about the cultural significance of maple syrup. She was sure there was a point somewhere in it but the circular logic was too reminiscent of a Stars Hollow town meeting for her to pick it out.
"Well, enough of that," she grumbled as she pulled into a free parking space. "Do you want to go in with me and get something?"
Lorelai sighed at her daughter's non-verbal response. "Was that two nods means yes or was it one?" she asked, not expecting an answer. Shaking her head, she climbed out of the packed car. Spying a nearby trashcan, she reached in through the window and grabbed a handful of stray snackfood wrappers.--- --- ---
Expertly balancing two large cups of coffee and two icing drenched cinnamon buns on a cardboard tray, Lorelai stepped out into the cooling late afternoon air. Squinting into the bright western sun, she got her bearings and headed towards the car.
"You wouldn't believe how nasty the restroom was!" Lorelai said, sitting down on the still warm hood after sitting the tray next to Rory. "Oh, right," she mumbled at the look Rory gave her. "there was that nasty one outside of Philly. And the one near the Grand Canyon was a total pigpen, almost a tourist attraction in its own right. Got you your favorite," she said, handing one of the cups to Rory. "It isn't made from those special beans, but it's real. Have I thanked you for depriving me of such heavenly flavor?"
"A dozen times," Rory said absently, turning her head slightly and staring over Lorelai's shoulder.
"Good," Lorelai said, grabbing the other cup for herself. "And she speaks. What are you looking at?"
Rory pointed at two motorcycles across the parking lot.
"If I can't have one, you can't either," Lorelai said. "They're too dangerous."
"No," Rory said, pointing towards two familiar looking women leaving the building. "Them."
"Again?" Lorelai looked at Rory in disbelief. "This is beyond a coincidence." Taking a big swig of her coffee before putting it down, she said, "Stay here." Sliding off of the hood, she stomped over to the bikes.
Standing next to them, she watched the two leather clad women approach, revising downward her estimate of their ages as they approached. There was something slightly off about the way they moved, though she couldn't quite figure it out. It must have had something to do with the way they moved, she thought. There was a smoothness to their movements that sent chills down her back. As if they weren't quite human.
"You've been following us since Vegas," she said boldly, when it looked like they were going to ignore her. "You should at least introduce yourselves."
The tall brunette looked over at the redhead, who nodded. "I'm Jessica, and that's Vi," she said before stepping around Lorelai and continuing towards the furthest bike. Her shorter companion remained standing there, her expression that of someone amused by a private joke.
"And?" Lorelai said, demanding more.
"You're a curious sort, aren't you, Lorelai Gilmore," Vi said. "What more do you want to know?"
"Why are you following us?" Lorelai asked, pausing for a moment before deciding that it didn't really matter how they knew her name.
"Because we were told to?" Vi said, as if that were enough.
"By whom?" Lorelai asked, genuinely puzzled. Unless Rory had robbed a casino or won the lottery during her amnesia days in Vegas, there wasn't anyone they knew who would go to this kind of effort to have them followed.
"Since this isn't some movie with Russian gangsters or Marlon Brando, I'm assuming this boss has a name?" Lorelai asked.
"Several," Vi told her with a faint smirk. Reaching into an inner pocket, she pulled out a white business card and handed it to Lorelai.
"Her?" Lorelai blurted out after reading the card. She took a quick glance over her shoulder at Rory, who was watching them over the top of her coffee from her perch on their car. When Rory gave no sign of joining them after her outburst, she asked again, "Why?"
Vi shrugged, leaning back against one of the bikes. "She didn't say."
"Well, you can stop now," Lorelai told her firmly.
"No, we really can't," Vi said. "Not until you get home."
"And I bet you know where we live," Lorelai grumbled.
"Yup," Jessica said, a small grin on her face as she rejoined the conversation. "We do draw the line at tucking you into bed," she added. "I'm so not into that, and Vi here already has a bedwarmer picked out."
"Jess," Vi said, "aren't you forgetting something?"
"What?" Jessica frowned.
"Who makes up the duty roster when Faith is out of town?"
"You do," Jess looked puzzled for a moment. "Oh, crap."
"I couldn't have put it better myself," Vi said with a smirk. "The back pool could use a good scrubbing tomorrow before the party. I think you'd look really cute in those goggles and rubber gloves."
"Double crap!" Jessica muttered, grabbing her helmet.
"If Rory calls her, and asks her to tell you to stop following us, will you?" Lorelai asked hopefully after their little show was over. Not that she thought Rory would do it but...
"You can ask but it won't happen," Vi told her. "Especially so close to the end of your trip."
Lorelai gave them her fiercest 'Mom glare', the one that occasionally even worked on Michel and almost never failed to get Rory to tell the truth. But it seemed to have no affect on them. "How about if I ask Miss Willow? Doesn't your boss work for her?"
"Not exactly. And we don't work for her either," Vi said. "In the field Buffy has priority."
Lorelai rubbed her forehead in exasperation. "Fine!" Glaring at them again, she turned around and headed back to the car.
"What's the verdict, Doc?" Rory asked when she returned, a little more animated than before. Sliding off of the hood, she grabbed the tray and climbed back into the car.
"We've got company all the way to Stars Hollow," Lorelai grumbled, joining her in the car. "They were told to follow us and they won't stop until we get home. Not sure what they'll do while we're in Hartford."
"They're like the girls on that wall," Rory told her, her voice soft.
"How can you tell?" Lorelai asked, surprised by the claim.
"I can feel them," Rory murmured mysteriously.
"You can what?!" Lorelai almost dropped the keys in surprise.
"They all have the same feeling, sort of like Buffy did."
"She's one of them?" Lorelai asked. "And how do you remember what she feels like?" Rory shrugged.
"But she's on the wall and they aren't" Rory added, her face starting to have that remote look on it again.
"Huh. Well she isn't dead yet either," Lorelai told her, something telling her that this was at the root of Rory's current distance.
"How do you know?" Rory asked, staring intently at her, her eyes creepily open wide like an anime characters.
"I listen when people talk?" Lorelai said. "Everyone talks about her like she's still alive."
"That isn't proof," Rory protested.
"What more do you want?" Lorelai asked. "If you aren't going to call her, how will you ever know?"
"Why would I call her?"
"Hello! Amnesia? Don't you want to know what happened in Vegas?" Lorelai asked.
"Maybe?" Rory rubbed her eyes. "What if it's something horrible?"
"She already knows what happened," Lorelai said. "She's not going to change her opinion about that."
"Wake me up when we get to Grandma's," Rory said. Leaning back in her seat, she closed her eyes.
"Maple syrup it is," Lorelai mumbled to herself. Starting up the car, she drove off.--- --- ---
Ethan Raine tapped the arm of his chair, staring through the iron bars of his cell window. It wasn't a horrible place to be, if one ignored the lack of freedom or real privacy. The meals weren't too bad, though they weren't anything fancy. Twice a week they let him go outside to get fresh air. They even generously provided him with a few unexpected luxuries - a small monthly ration of cheap brandy and even cheaper cigarettes.
But the month old American newspapers and magazines they supplied him with provided the mental stimulation of a brick to the forehead. With nothing to do except write exaggerated tales of his past in his journal for the entertainment of his captors. To put it bluntly, he was bored. And not just bored but damn bored. Verging on the kind of boredom that tended to get him into glorious, chaotic trouble. Not that there was much opportunity to practice the chaos magic that he'd specialized in during his younger days. Or ability.
After his last encounter with Ripper's annoying pest of a slayer, he'd been drugged and when he woke up, his magic was bound. It wasn't that his awareness of magic was gone, he just couldn't direct the magical currents that he could still sense as they flowed through and around his body.
In the years since he'd been unable to discover how they'd done it. Or even who. He might be a semi-permanent guest of the American military but they'd never impressed him with their understanding of the intricacies of such things. And the cleverness of the binding was something the old tarts in the Council of Watchers wouldn't have bothered with. They would have just shot him and cremated his remains.
A sudden blast of raw, swirling power directed his attention to the door of his cell.
"Have you reconsidered their offer?" a male voice asked, in a distinctive American accent. One he hadn't heard since before his last trip to Sunnydale. And just as then, all he could make out was a blurry figure.
Ethan sighed before pasting a sincere smile on his face. Unlike his cell, which he knew he'd escape eventually, if he accepted their employment the only way to resign was death, his death. But eventually could be decades away. Decades he didn't have without access to his magic. "It has crossed my mind on occasion."
"This is your last chance," the voice told him. "They weren't too impressed with your last amateurish display."
"It was just a bit of fun," Ethan said with a smirk.
"They don't have a sense of humour," the voice muttered. "Yes, or no."
"What's in it for me?" Ethan asked.
"You don't waste away here, forgotten until you die," the voice said.
"If you put it that way..." Ethan said, keeping his tone cheerful and nonchalant. "Where's the contract?"TBC